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Local star and World Cup run draw Thai fans to Japanese soccer

J.League taps into soaring interest with media deals and international matches

Chanathip Songkrasin, the "Thai Messi," in blue uniform, has boosted the popularity of Japanese soccer in Thailand.   © Kyodo

BANGKOK -- Japan's top soccer league is gaining a growing following in Thailand, thanks to both a deeper push into the market by the J.League itself and a grassroots-driven boom.

A survey by the league found that interest among Thai audiences reached 61% last year, triple the 2013 level. A poll by a U.S. company showed interest more than doubling over the past few years to 49% -- behind England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga, at 84% and 62% respectively, but still a healthy figure.

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